Holiday Pinwheel Cookies

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Holiday Pinwheel Cookies are so fun on a cookie tray! Made by rolling with two colors of dough together. Freeze the log of dough for up to a month for slice-and-bake cookies.

Photography Credit: Irvin Lin

When I was working on my cookbook Marbled, Swirled, and Layered, I had to make some tough choices about which recipes to keep and which to let go. The cookie chapter was pretty overloaded as it was, and some recipes ended up falling by the wayside.

Red and white pinwheel cookies were one of them. And that’s too bad because they are a classic holiday cookie that everyone should learn to make.

But today is your lucky day! I’m resurrecting the recipe and sharing it with you.

Holiday Pinwheel Cookies

Though they look difficult to make, the secret to pinwheel cookies is really just patience. The basic process involves dividing the cookie dough and adding color and flavoring extract to half. The dough is then rolled into rectangles and sandwiched together. Roll them up into a log, then just slice and bake.

I also like to divide each ball of dough in half again (to make four pieces), so that I can make some cookies with the spiral of color on the inside and some with the spiral of color on the outside.

Holiday Pinwheel Cookies Holiday Pinwheel CookiesLetting the dough chill in the refrigerator between each step makes it much easier to work with. I often make pinwheel cookies over a couple of days, letting the dough chill overnight before moving to the next step.

After the final roll, the logs of cookie dough can be frozen for up to a month (tightly sealed both in plastic wrap and an airtight resealable freezer bag). This means you can have homemade pinwheel cookies pretty much at your beck and call.

If you feel so inclined, the frozen dough logs can even be bundled as a homemade gift to your friends, so they can bake the cookies at home as well!

Holiday Pinwheel CookiesToday, I’ve gone with a classic raspberry-flavored red and white swirled dough, which is festive for the holidays. You can adapt the recipe by swapping out the food coloring and the flavoring extract with anything you like. Some of my favorites include orange food coloring and extract, green and mint, and yellow and lemon.

The sky is the limit with these cookies!

Holiday Pinwheel Cookies Recipe

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  • Prep time: 30 minutes
  • Cook time: 10 minutes
  • Chilling time: 4 hours
  • Yield: About 4 dozen cookies

These festive spiral pinwheel cookies require a bit of effort and patience, but are a fun project. Be sure to allow plenty of time for the dough to chill, letting the dough rest in the refrigerator overnight in between steps (you can even make the cookies over a couple of days).

If raspberry extract isn’t available at your grocery store or you want a different flavor, just substitute out the same amount of your favorite extract, along with a corresponding food coloring.

Ingredients

  •  1 1/4 cup (250 g) white granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (225 g or 2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large eggs
  • 3 cups (420 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon liquid red food coloring
  • 1/2 teaspoon raspberry extract

Method

1 Beat the butter and sugar: Place the sugar, butter, vanilla, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat the ingredients together until the batter is creamy, light in color, and clings to the side of the bowl, about 2 minutes on medium speed.

Holiday Pinwheel Cookies

2 Add the egg: Scrape down the side of the bowl and add the egg. Mix until incorporated.

3 Add the flour: Add the flour and mix it into the dough on low speed until no more streaks of flour remain.

Holiday Pinwheel Cookies

4 Divide and color the dough: Scrape the dough out onto a clean surface and divide in half. Set one half aside. Place the other half back in the bowl, and add the red food coloring and raspberry extract. Mix until incorporated and uniform in color.

Divide each half of the dough in half again – you should have 4 balls of dough, two plain and two raspberry. Roughly shape each ball into a square or rectangle, and tightly wrap each square in plastic wrap.

Holiday Pinwheel Cookies

5 Refrigerate the dough for at least 30 minutes, or up to a day, to let the dough firm.

6 Roll out the dough: Remove one piece of dough, unwrap it, and place on a piece of wax paper or parchment paper. Place another piece of wax paper or parchment paper on top, and roll the dough into a 6 x 12 rectangle. If the dough is too hard to roll out, let it soften for a few minutes until it's easier to roll.

As you roll the dough, occasionally flip it over. If the parchment paper has become wrinkled, unpeel it from the dough and reapply (so you don't get wrinkles in your dough).

When done, transfer the rolled-out dough to a baking sheet, still sandwiched between sheets of paper. Repeat with the remaining 3 pieces of dough, stacking the sheets of dough on top of each other on the baking sheet.

7 Once all four pieces of dough are rolled out, place the cookie sheet with the dough in the freezer for 15 minutes. The dough should be firm, but not frozen through.

8 Sandwich together the vanilla and raspberry doughs: Remove one of the sheets of vanilla dough and one of the sheets of raspberry dough from the freezer. Peel back the top paper on both.

Carefully flip the raspberry dough onto the vanilla dough so they are sandwiched together (vanilla on bottom, raspberry on top – the colors are reversed in the photos below, but they'll give you the general idea!). Peel away the remaining paper from the raspberry dough.

Trim the edges so the two sheets of dough line up. Carefully roll the dough from the long edge to make a 12-inch long log of dough, peeling away the bottom layer of parchment as you go.

Holiday Pinwheel Cookies Holiday Pinwheel Cookies Holiday Pinwheel Cookies Holiday Pinwheel Cookies

9 Repeat with remaining dough: Repeat this sandwiching and rolling process, but this time put the raspberry layer on the bottom so that when you roll the dough, the raspberry dough is on the outside.

10 Chill the logs of dough: Wrap each log of dough tightly in the parchment paper or plastic wrap. Chill in the fridge for 2 hours or overnight. (Or freeze for up to a month.)

11 Heat the oven to 350ºF and line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper or silicon baking mat.

12 Slice the cookies: Remove the chilled dough from the fridge. The bottom of the dough will be slightly flat from where it was resting in the fridge. To smooth this out, gently roll the log against the counter with your hands until the edges are smooth again.

Slice the dough into slice 1/4- to 1/2-inch thick. Place them the baking sheet about an inch apart.

Holiday Pinwheel Cookies Holiday Pinwheel Cookies

13 Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until the cookies start to brown ever so slightly on the edges.

Transfer baked cookies to a wire rack to cool. Repeat with slicing and baking the remaining dough. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

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Irvin Lin

Irvin Lin is an IACP award-winning photographer, food writer and recipe developer, blue-ribbon baker, public speaker and occasional social media consultant. His blog is Eat the Loveand his first cookbook is Marbled, Swirled and Layered.

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Showing 4 of 10 Comments

  • Mary

    I followed the recipe instructions, but when I tried to roll the dough, it cracked like crazy. I let the second one warm up a little in case I had left it in the freezer too long but that one also fell apart. How Can I fix this?

  • JOANNE THORNE

    Hi….made these wonderful cookies…just one question is the butter in America whiter than ours in the UK as your cookies looked so much better…..mines more yellow. ….taste great though !!!

  • Lindsey

    That garish red color does not look appetizing! Is there a way to color them naturally?

  • Heide Fiscella

    Every Christmas I make something like this with chocolate and vanilla. So pretty and delicious! They do require patience, take your time!
    I add melted unsweetened chocolate and a spoonful of instant coffee. It makes the chocolate half a little stiffer and harder to roll, and prone to cracking when cold. I just let it warm up a bit more and go slow. Patience!

  • Sandy S.

    Hi Irvin! Who wouldn’t want these pretty cookies on their holiday cookie tray!?! So full of whimsy and they sound delicious. I have a couple questions. How thick should the layers be rolled out to? Thicker than for a pie crust? And if I freeze the rolls, can I cut and bake immediately or do the rolls need to go in the fridge to thaw first? Crossing my fingers that I can find some raspberry extract! Oh, and one last question. Any thoughts on making a chocolate layer?

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